If you’re a reader, you are about to read a blog post which will echo through the pits of your soul. It’s not a problem, we all know this. But whenever us readers are faced with this sort of conundrum, there is definite…friction would be the best way to put it, in my mind.
Those of you who’ve been reading my blog for a while will already know that I am blowing this issue (the one I’m about to tell you about) up to be something it absolutely is not, creating drama where none is needed, creating blockage when there probably is a clear path that I just can’t see yet.
But the thing is: this feels big. Like a pickle. And when something feels like a pickle to me, I will set my brain to work until it has come up with a logical solution that will bring me peace and clarity and a bin (you know, a bin to throw the pickle into.)
What is the pickle, you ask? Books, that’s what. I’ve started reading three books that are wonderful…and I’ve started them all at the same time. The pickle is this, and the pickle is also the fact that I’ll not finish any of them at this rate.
I won’t go into the details about each book but I will say that each is illuminating, genuine, inspiring, and each has a very clear reason to be read by a bookish dreamer named Brooke at this point in her life.
How do I choose which one to plow on with? Surely it’s an essential question, like asking myself: should I brush my teeth, have a shower, sleep, eat? You’re laughing aren’t you. You’re laughing because you’ve been here before, but currently you’re not so it’s kind of like you’re looking back upon a distant nightmare set in a far-off land.
But for me, it’s here. It’s now. And I’ve got to DO something, I’ve got to get TOUGH.
I’ve got to put two of the books away. When it comes down to it, that’s just what I’ve got to do, isn’t it? One at a time. I will not find un-friction until I make a choice, and the time has come for me to make it—to choose the apple, the orange or the pear.
What a bookishly frantic conundrum. What a pickle of the totally me kind.
My glasses are shining back at me from the library window.
In hindsight, I should have eaten. Actual lunch I mean, not just the Honey and Date Loaf that quite accidentally fell into my belly at around lunchtime today. I know I should have chosen a more appropriate lunch because I’ve been wandering around the library for an hour, in a daze, and only now have I begun to write: a blog post, might I add, that will likely make little to no sense at all, whatsoever, in the slightest, or even a little bit. (See what I mean? I have no one to blame but myself.)
Apart from a total lack of regard for my perfectly innocent human body, it’s been a wonderful day. The ‘wonderful’ began with a song about a garden. I was on my way to meet my husband and little people at the pool, wrestling with the gear stick of my husband’s zippy little beetle bug (I’ve never been a multitasker) when the lady on the radio announced the next song. Inspired by a home garden, apparently.
A song about a garden: I was intrigued.
By the end of the song— a dainty classical number, whirling with piano and violin— the butterflies in my heart had moved me out of my body and into a lavender-scented cottage garden.
Beautiful. Magical. Lovely.
Really it was.
When life returned to normal, I swam with my ‘watch this Mummy!’ little girl. I ate cake and I drank coffee. I wandered the shops, and I wandered the library, and here I am now. Writing a completely random blog post like only a hungry cooky girl can.
It’s been a happy kind of day (however random) thanks for asking. ☺️I’m sorry about the ‘not really about anything’ blog post.
And, for the first time in a good little while, I am at a cafe, sinking into a booth seat, quietly reflecting on the peace of it all.
I’m the soft girl today. She’s the part of me that I choose—quite fiercely so—because the soft girl is anything but soft. She’s gentle and kind, and yet she’s capable and strong. And she’s safe, the part of me that feels most like ‘home’.
She made me buy a book, today, the soft girl did. It’s beautiful. A paperback, with a silvery-white cover and the title: Women Who Run With The Wolves: Contacting the Power of The Wild Woman, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. A quote from Maya Angelou decorates the bottom. It says: ‘Everyone who can read should read this book.’
The book had whispered to me from the shelf—or, perhaps the soft girl had whispered me to it, I can’t be entirely certain. And even though it was only visible via the spine, I plucked it quickly from its little cave and read the blurb.
I wasn’t going to buy a book. It wasn’t on my radar, not at all. But as soon as I read what this beautiful, silvery book was about…the soft girl touched me and began whispering me her careful words: ‘This book will change your life.’
I bought it. It sits beside me, in my laptop bag, waiting for me to breathe it in— which I will do tonight, as soon as I have found a cup of steaming tea and a nice big blanket.
I suppose it might be a wonderful book.
And, if it is, if the whispers of the soft girl were true in all their wistfully tender encouragement…my life is about to change.
It’s the essence of me, I suppose; joy, love and all the sunny days, enough of all three to make a bright side girl thrive.
The thing is—
I’m not thriving. These days, for me, being the highly sensitive muffin that I am can come at a cost, a chemically imbalanced sort of cost.
In other words: sometimes, I get a bit sad.
As much as I love to sprinkle joyous stardust over this little bloggy land of mine, I’ll always be authentic in this place. I’ll never pretend to be happy when I’m not. And at the moment, I’ve got to admit: I am having a little trouble finding my sunshine.
But don’t worry. I’ll find it again. That’s just what I do.
Hopefully, I’ll bring it here tomorrow. But today, I’ve been quite the soft girl. Today I’ve been inside my walls and noticed the rain on the windows, more than anything else.
I will still try to make it through the month, posting every day, as promised, although I really do need to preface that with some reality— I may need to take a few days off here and there, so please forgive me, If I do.
Of course, I wouldn’t be me If I didn’t add some sort of a joyous twist to this little funk party I’ve got going on here, so I’ll tell you a lovely story. Just a short one.
Yesterday, while dropping my little boy at kinder, one of the beautiful Mum’s— a lovely friend who I very quickly found a connection with-— stopped me, with a lovely smile, and said hi. When she asked, I had to admit: actually, I’d been a little sad, and actually, I was feeling a little worried about it.
When I walked away from her beautiful hug, the world seemed just so peaceful again.
And later in the evening, when I noticed a beautifully wrapped hamper on my doorstep, filled with all sorts of goodies, and a beautiful card to cheer me up— I mean, it was the sweetest thing.
It’s the sort of magic that’s hidden in our humanity, isn’t it— the tender loving care of a friend in need. What a beautiful soul she is, to have been touched by my story and gone out of her way to reach out with loving arms. It’s quite clear to me that some people are here to show the rest of the world how to be: and she is one of them, absolutely.
Okay, my lovely friends. I’ll be off then. Time to give me some love, and my hubby and kids some great big ‘get happy’ cuddles.
And I’ll probably eat some chocolate, too. I’m not sure if chocolate’s the best thing for a girl whose body is ever so slightly chemically challenged…
When I write my words, when I set them free in this little bloggy land of mine— the one where you’ve come to meet me, now—I become a better version of me. I can feel it. I can feel the happy moving within me, making my outer edges soft, making my inner edges kind.
It’s what I want my words and my life to be.
And absolutely overflowing with fluffy and mushy and sweet.
That’s why I adore this very bloggy world we share.
It fills my life with chances. Chances to share what it is to be human. Chances to share joy, chances to share pain, chances to share as little or as much as I want, on any given day, about any given thing.
Gosh I’m grateful to have shared so many chances with you.
You might be wondering where all this gooey stuff has come from, and that’s okay, because I’m ready to tell you. It’s come from freedom, the freedom I’ve allowed myself within the walls of this life-filled place.
This heart of mine doesn’t need to do quiet, in this place.
It doesn’t need to do scared of being different, scared of being judged.
It just needs to do me in all of my mushy, fluffy everything.
It’s been one whole year of words from me—
a whole year of this little blog of everything.
And I can’t thank you enough for joining me on the ride.
It was time to tackle a difficult read—a bold move, on my behalf. I’d grown up reading only for pleasure and, up until that point in my life, I’d not felt the need to be challenged by books. Reality could be a bitter pill to swallow as it was; did I really want it shoved in my face? Did I want to be huffing and puffing at the dictionary every ten words? No. I didn’t.
But I would do it anyway.
I decided on an Australian literary fiction novel that had a shiny gold sticker on it: an award winner. Surely this would challenge me. I lasted fifty pages before I turned to my husband—who was lounging on the couch opposite me with his own book— and made the big announcement.
‘The struggle is real,’ I said, and it was. Oh, my goodness it was.
Wordy passages of profound thought. Dull family portraits, the monotony of everyday life. A bit of love. A bit of hate. A bit of everything and nothing all at once. I raised my eyebrow and decorated the google search bar on my phone with the words I’d come to know way too well over the past few days, ‘Define (insert word here).’
‘It’s okay to stop reading,’ my husband said, smiling up at me from his book—which he was loving, by the way. And so, it seemed I had a choice. I could go on, allow myself the potential to expand as a reader (and, perhaps, as a human) or I could give up and go find another book. A lovely, lovely book!
Oh, man. I knew what the answer had to be. I needed to read on, I’d kick myself if I didn’t.
The dominoes fell about a quarter of the way through when I had the uncanny sense that the book was becoming more. I frowned into it, gently rocking back and forth on our beloved flower armchair (the same one that’s rocked both our precious babes to sleep, on countless occasions) when I realised what had happened. For the very first time, I had seen me within the pages of a book. Not just the outer crust of me. The inner creaks, the bones, the blood; and all the horrendous aches and pains life had thrown my way.
It felt awful. It felt so bloody awful that I just did not know how I could possibly last through another moment of such soul-scraping reality. Surely, I’d have to put the book down. But I didn’t. I kept reading. And then the book was finished. Just like that, I’d been changed because I dared to go to a place, within the world of literature, that frightened me.
There lies the beauty and the beast that is literary fiction—the grace of the art, the rawness of humanity; these are books coloured by the real-lives of writers who dare to expose life’s simple truths so that us readers might come to know ourselves, and our world, differently.
Michelle De Kretser is one of Australia’s best when it comes to finding the truth and telling it in the form of a novel. As I sat in the audience of her Q and A session on Saturday—only days after she won her second Miles Franklin Award—I was taken right back to the book that changed me. My burst into the world of literary fiction and the humanity that connected me to it, and it to me.
Michelle’s characters are ordinary, flawed people—at least, the ones I’ve met so far— and they are so alive with the human traits we all share. It was fascinating to hear her explain the way she draws the lives of these imperfect individuals, crafts them into little gems that reflect the lives of us, the readers.
It was very easy to be inspired by Michelle and her cheeky confidence. She spoke about all the crap of life as though the fixes were obvious, that underneath the complications of modern living, lies simplicity. People. Just trying to be.
All the beautiful textures and colours of the world, and there they are— in the minds of our most cherished writers, on the pages of our most precious books. Surely, to be human is to share our lives and hearts with others. To take a chance. To show each other our scars and to help each other heal from them. Because life hurts so much better when we roll with the punches, together, don’t you think? To me, that’s the beauty of literature. And I get the feeling that Michelle De Kretser just might feel the same way.
I was power walking and angry listening. In my earphones was the voice of an award-winning Aussie writer, discussing his concerns about the literary prizes of the world, and how potentially harmful he thought them to be, considering the subjective nature of reading and writing. I could see his point, but overall I had to disagree; great work should be acknowledged.
A couple of years later, I entered a short story competition…and won. The announcement was electric. I clapped my hand over my mouth (you know it, just like in the movies) and flicked my head around to where my sister was smiling back at me. Someone had liked my story. Someone had loved it, in fact, and I couldn’t quite believe how wonderful that kind of validation felt. This was one of my babies—one that I had agonised over, questioned, written and re-written so many times I thought I was going nuts. And now I was seeing it light up the world outside of me, making a difference in other peoples lives. Gosh, I was proud.
Over the coming days, though, I started to consider the validity of my win. Did I really deserve it? Of course, I was proud of my story, and, using the skills I’d picked up along my writerly way, I was confident that my story had technical merit. But was it the best? What did the best really look like?
My biggest punch of reality was the story that came in second place. It was a good story. It was a really, really good story. Not only was it superbly written, but the final paragraph delivered a twist so satisfying that my mouth flew open and a great big, ‘Hah!’ came flying out. That had never happened to me before while reading. Ever. This was clearly an award-winning story. And yet…it hadn’t won. My mind went straight to the podcast, to the writer who’d questioned it all, and finally, I could see what he was talking about. Comparing two stories is a bit like comparing an apple and an orange. Who’s to say which is sweeter?
With that said, as I sat in the audience of this Sunday’s announcement of the Miles Franklin award—clapping wildly as Michelle De Kretser took out the 2018 prize for her novel, The Life to Come— I decided once and for all. Literary competitions are good. They will never be entirely black and white, or fair; an opinion is an opinion, after all. But perhaps we should try to see the good in literary competitions, look at them through those glasses I love so much: the rose-coloured ones.
Competitions like the Miles Franklin, The Stella Prize, The Man Booker (just to name a few) can provide a roadmap, a huge wavy flag that says, ‘Look here! This is one way to write, this is one way to live!’ My passion for reading and writing—and for being a good human, for that matter— naturally leads me to think of these competitions as a rich source of learning and growth.
And, as for the subjectivity that places a question mark over the heads of every award-winning book out there…the great news is this. We get to decide the true winner. Us. The voracious readers. The learner writers. We know which books and authors resonate with our own sensibilities. And if our own opinion just so happens to be the same as that of the judges, well. Hi-fives all ‘round, hey?
Congratulations, Michelle De Kretser. I read your words and I wish they were mine. xx